The symptoms of active TB are very variable and depend on which part of the body has been infected, that is which type of TB it is. It is very difficult to diagnose TB just from the symptoms, because the symptoms are not usually exclusive to TB. This means that the symptoms can usually also be the symptoms of another disease as well. So to diagnose TB it is always necessary to do at least one TB test.
Pulmonary TB is TB in the lungs. The specific symptoms of pulmonary TB are having a bad cough that lasts longer than three weeks, having pain in the chest, and coughing up blood or phlegm from deep inside the lungs.2
Extrapulmonary TB, which is also known as disseminated or miliary TB, refers to all the different types of TB other than pulmonary TB.3 Generally it is the types of TB that do not affect the lungs, the main exception to this being the type of extrapulmonary TB known as Pleural TB.
The general symptoms of extrapulmonary TB are the same as for pulmonary TB, but there can then be specific symptoms relating to the particular site or sites in the body that are infected.
Lymphadenitis is the inflammation and/or enlargement of a lymph node and is a common response to a variety of infections particularly in children.4 The only symptoms of TB lymphadenitis may be painless slowly enlarging lymph nodes, as there are often no general TB symptoms. The swollen lymph nodes are often in the neck area, although they can be in the groin.
TB infection of the lymph nodes in the neck is sometimes referred to by the name Scrofula, or as TB adenitis.5
The most common initial symptom of bone TB is pain, but it depends on the bone or joint that is affected. There may also be curving of the affected bone or joint, as well as loss of movement in the affected bone or joint. The affected bone may also be weakened and may fracture easily.6
Spinal TB is also known as TB Spondylitis or Pott Disease. The symptoms of Pott disease depend on the stage of disease, and the affected site, but back pain is the earliest and most common symptom.7
TB meningitis does not start with classic meningitis symptoms. It begins with vague, general symptoms of aches and pains, a fever, and generally feeling unwell. This lasts for anywhere from about 2 to 8 weeks. Only then do the more obvious symptoms like vomiting, severe headache, a dislike of lights, neck stiffness and seizures occur.8
The symptoms of abdominal TB can be abdominal pain, diarrhea, and bleeding from the anus or rectum. As with a number of the other types of TB, the symptoms will depend on the exact area that is affected.9
In a similar way to adults the symptoms of TB depend on the type of TB that the child has. Children usually have pulmonary TB and the symptoms are usually a chronic cough, a fever and failure to thrive or a weight loss.
Children develop extra pulmonary TB (disseminated TB) more often than adults.10 Disseminated or Miliary TB, such as TB meningitis particularly occurs in children less than three years old.
TBFacts.org has more about TB in children.